Applying Ethics & Leadership to Business Development

One of the most compelling definitions of a leader is an individual whose mere presence inspires the desire to follow. Leaders have learned how to set strategic and operational objectives in putting together plans, how to be visionaries and see opportunities for their organizations that other individuals may miss, and in the role of Business Development, they have mastered the 12 Core Competencies, a benchmark to measure leaders.

When asked if leaders are born or bred, the general consensus is that leadership can be taught.  While few of us have had the opportunity to be formally trained or mentored in leadership, all of us are called to be a leader at different times and circumstances in our lives.  Leadership is first about who you are as an individual, not what you do, and the term character best describes the core characteristic of a leader.  It’s this part of an individual that inspires other to follow so we see character as the summation of an individual’s principles and values, core beliefs by which one anchors and measures their behavior in all roles in life.  Principles and values of a positive leader include loyalty, respect, integrity, courage, fairness, honesty, duty, honor and commitment.

If character is the summation of our principles and values, then ethics is the application of them. To understand more about character development, we can reach back nearly 2500 years to the writings of Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics.  Aristotle taught that moral virtue is acquired by practice.  Ethics, according to Aristotle, is moral virtue that comes about as a result of habit. Ethics has as its root ethike, formed by the slight variation of the word ethos (habit). Aristotle explained that moral virtues do not arise in us by nature; we must accept them, embrace them and perfect them by habit. Leadership training emphasizes that understanding leader values and attributes is only the first step in development.  A leader must also embrace values and practice attributes, living them until they become a habit.

In the Business Development role, success requires a fusion of who we are as an individual, along with our principles, values, ethics and their application.  It’s a unique combination of what we know, how we apply it and what we do.


What are your thoughts on ethics and leadership in relation to business development? I’d love to hear your feedback.

Your Career – 4 Questions

Many people are confused about the relationship between incentives and motivation. It’s generally accepted that satisfaction and dissatisfaction are separate, independent measures, which explains why you may love and hate your job at the same time.

Psychologist Frederick Herzberg’s theory of motivation identifies two work factors that cause dissatisfaction: hygiene and motivation.

  • Hygiene factors include status, compensation (salary and benefits), job security, safe and comfortable work conditions, company policies and supervisory practices. With these factors in place, you’re generally satisfied with your work. You may not love your job, but you won’t hate it, either.
  • Motivation factors include challenging work, recognition, responsibility and personal growth — all of which allow you to feel that you’re making a meaningful contribution. You are motivated by the intrinsic conditions of the work itself.

Herzberg’s theory explains why some people with immense talent and the best intentions make choices that leave them dissatisfied. If you base career decisions solely on hygiene factors (including income), you’re likely to end up demotivated and disengaged.

The pressures of status, providing for our families and paying off debt are assuredly tough, and they should never be ignored. But you need to recognize that they’re not true motivational factors. Making money your top priority may lead you to choose the wrong job. As resentment creeps in, you’ll eventually ask yourself, “Where did my passion go?”

When considering career opportunities, most of us have been taught to focus on hygiene factors. Of equal (if not greater) importance are the following questions:

  1. Is this work meaningful to me?
  2. Does this job offer a chance for professional development?
  3. Will I have opportunities for recognition and achievement?
  4. Will I be given responsibility?

“The only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work,” said Steve Jobs in his famous 2005 Stanford University commencement address. “And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”

When in doubt, seek guidance from a trusted mentor or experienced coach. If you’ve never had the benefits of working with a coach, perhaps now would be a time to do so. Give me a call, I’d love to hear from you.

Less Confidence, More Leadership Success

In business psychology, the prevailing wisdom has assumed that a high degree of self-confidence leads to promotions and leadership success. New studies, however, prove otherwise, writes business psychologist Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic in Less-Confident People Are More Successful (Harvard Business Reviewblog, July 2012).


According to this blog post, a moderately low level of self-confidence is more likely to make you successful, Dr. Chamorro-Premuzic asserts. Don’t confuse this with a very low degree of self-confidence. Excessive fear, anxiety and stress will inhibit performance, impede decision-making and undermine interpersonal relationships.


But low-enough self-confidence can work in your favor because it:


1.     Makes you pay attention to negative feedback and be self-critical. This means you’re open to learning and improving. Most of us tend to listen to feedback and ignore the negative in favor of the positive. If you want to overcome deficits, you must listen to both positive and negative comments.


2.     Motivates you to work harder and prepare more effectively. If you really want to achieve leadership success, you will do whatever it takes to bridge the gap between the status quo and your professional goals.


3.     Reduces your chances of coming across as arrogant or delusional.People with lower levels of self-confidence are more likely to admit their mistakes instead of blaming others — and they rarely take credit for others’ accomplishments.


If you’re serious about becoming a strong leader, lower self-confidence can serve as a strong ally, inspiring you to work hard, conquer limitations and, put simply, avoid being a jerk.


In the work I do with executives, I’ve found that most come across as very self-confident. The news that this can inhibit their executive presence comes as a shock. They fear coming across as vulnerable to others with whom they compete for promotions.


And yet, when their confidence is dialed down a bit, they find there’s more room to ask questions, learn from others, and build better connections with the people who matter.


Consider this: when you’re courageous enough to question your own behavior and motives – your own self-deception, you extend the privilege to others. We model the behaviors we wish to see in others. That is truly a strong leadership quality.


Avoiding blame and judgment opens the door to cooperation and productivity.


Help yourself and your staff by:


1.     Reading Arbinger’s Leadership and Self-Deception.


2.     Working with an executive coach like myself who has been trained through Arbinger to work with self-deception.


3.     Asking yourself, “What’s my part in any given problem?”


4.     Identifying ways to set aside your ego and achieve optimum results.


If you’ve found this helpful, let me know. I can be reached here. I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences with these issues.





Choose Leadership (part 1)

Great leadership doesn’t require a diploma or a degree. It’s not reserved for some elite group of people.

Leadership can be something for everyone to embrace, from administrative assistant to janitor to manager to CEO. Sometimes all it requires is a shift in mindset: interpreting frustrations at work as opportunities instead of barriers.

Maybe it’s time for all of us to step up, to take action and become a leader and, with the support of other great leaders, help make the company (and yourself) succeed.

What Does Good Leadership Look Like?
Leadership is about so much more than strategy, operations and marketing. It’s about discovering and understanding each team member’s potential (as well as your own) and finding ways to tap into that resource, something many managers neglect to do.

From presidents to generals to sports coaches, the best leaders are often the ones who look outside their own field of endeavour to discover how true, universally successful leaders think. For example, take John Quincy Adams who said:

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.

Or Lao Tzu who suggested:

A leader is best when people barely know he exists. When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.

Few employees would argue about the merits of such leadership styles—with the emphasis on encouraging and channelling subordinates’ intelligence and passion into the job. But for employers, those styles could also yield positive results. The 2007-2008 Towers-Perrin Global Workforce Study found that if managers recognized employees’ untapped energy and ambition and then channelled it, they would increase employee engagement, defined as an employee’s willingness to go the extra mile. And that engagement is golden. The study found that companies with the highest percentage of engaged workers also had the highest increased operating income and earnings per share. So by inspiring your staff, you’re potentially boosting the bottom line.

Author’s content used under license, © Claire Communications

Want to Inspire? Start with Why

When a mission statement is well written, it serves as a declaration of purpose. But corporate mission statements are often little more than a descriptive sentence about products, aspirations or desired public perceptions. They’re more powerful when they clearly and specifically articulate the difference your business strives to make in the world.

Here’s an example from Roy Spence’s book It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For:

Consider this mission statement by a large grocery chain: “Our goal is to be the first choice for those customers who have the opportunity to shop locally in [our stores]. To achieve this goal [we] aim to be best at fresh, best at availability, best at customer service, best at product and price.”

It’s a long list of what the company will be best at, but nothing about customers, employees, communities or society. Compare that with another food chain’s mission statement:

To help consumers find foods that offer more nutrition for the calories as they make choices in each department of our stores, thereby helping food shoppers make healthier choices.

Which statement do you find more engaging? If your mission statement isn’t compelling and engaging, you can’t expect employees to care, can you?

Leaders who want to succeed should straightforwardly communicate what they believe in and why they’re so passionate about their cause, according to business consultant Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (Portfolio, 2010).

Most people know what they do and how they do it, Sinek says, but few communicate why they’re doing it.

“People don’t buy what you do; they buy into why you do it,” he emphasizes.

If you don’t know and cannot communicate why you take specific actions, how can you expect employees to become loyal followers who support your mission?

The world is before you, and you need not take it or leave it as it was when you came in. ~ James Baldwin, author

I’d love to hear from you: what’s been your experience with the mission statements of the companies you’ve worked for?

High Achiever? Make Good Use of a Coach (part 5)

(This is the conclusion of a 5 part series.)

Mediocrity is the gateway to disengagement and boredom. To sustain high achievement, you need to be continually learning and growing, in spite of uncertainty and anxiety. You need to ask for, and receive, feedback.

Even the act of asking for help can be risky. In your private sessions with an executive coach,  discuss who to approach for help and how to frame requests.

Anyone in a leadership role faces high-stress decisions each day. In the absence of a consistent commitment to growth and development, executive teams are prone to create and experience “groupthink.”  

With groupthink, group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative ideas or viewpoints. The safe road beckons strongly when there is accumulative stress and rising risk.

Developing Character and Wisdom

You want to maintain the best path for your career, yet still support short- and long-term organizational goals. Knowing how to navigate these tough environments is crucial for any achiever who wants to ascend to the top ranks.

History requires leaders to find and do the right things, in the right way, against the right time frame. It requires them to develop the capacity for executive wisdom and the ability to deploy it. It requires that they both see and pursue the development of virtue in their own characters.

Leaders routinely face situations for which they have no rules to guide them and all too often for which they have little or no knowledge. In these circumstances, they are always anxious and face incredible pressures to behave badly because they more often do not know what they do not know. Almost nothing is more difficult, anxiety arousing, and humiliating than for a leader to admit that he or she does not know the right thing to do.

~ Richard R. Kilburg, Executive Wisdom: Coaching and the Emergence of Virtuous Leaders, APA, 2006

Developing wisdom, virtue and true expertise in any domain takes time, a determined spirit and the courage to ask for help. With the right coach, you can further your professional growth in spite of the risks and anxieties.

High Achiever? 6 Steps to Free Yourself (part 4)

Review from prious posts: If you’re smart and ambitious, you likely have a coach or have experience with one at some point in your career. It’s time to review or renew your coaching relationship.  Work with your coach or mentor on these six steps for freeing yourself from traps:  (first 3 steps discussed in part 3)

4. Focus on the long term, but concentrate on next steps: Long-term success requires a willingness to take short-term risks. Fear of failure or of looking inept, however, can stop you from taking chances.

You have to be willing to leave your comfort zone to complete the new tasks required for changing career demands. Long-term goals can withstand minor setbacks. Look at the big picture, and give yourself the necessary latitude to make a few missteps along the way.

5. Adopt a positive mindset: Recent studies reveal that a happy, positive mindset is a prerequisite for success — not its byproduct. When you approach a project by focusing on what’s good about it, you set yourself up for great results.

Try framing an assignment as a challenge instead of a problem, and you’ll be better able to think calmly and creatively. When your boss gives you extra work, you have two choices: feel put upon and overloaded, or take satisfaction in knowing she trusts you to get the job done.

6. Embrace humility, practice and patience: Doing the right thing poorly is painful at first but well worth the effort. Sure, it’s more satisfying to do something well, but think about the best use of your time. Routines and easy success can set you up for stagnation.

To move your game to the next level or in a new direction, be willing to exhibit vulnerability and even humility. Professional growth takes practice and patience. Most of us need to move beyond our comfort zones to enjoy continued success.

Tomorrow: the conclusion of this 5 part series: Making Good Use of a Coach

High Achiever? 6 Steps to Free Yourself (part 3)

If you’re smart and ambitious, you likely have a coach or have experience with one at some point in your career. It’s time to review or renew your coaching relationship. 

Work with your coach or mentor on these six steps for freeing yourself from traps: 

1. Forget the past: How much are you basing your career decisions on past experiences, either good or bad? Most of us make irrational comparisons between a past bad experience and a current situation. We are notoriously poor predictors of our future emotional states.

Most of what we surmise about our past failures is circumstantial. Look at the past with a different perspective — one that takes into account randomness or luck. 

We are never in control of situations as much we think, and blaming or crediting ourselves is often irrational and inappropriate. Sure, we’ve accomplished a lot, and we’ve made mistakes. That was then; this is now.

What counts is stepping up to learn new tasks and skills. An open mind — one that is willing to admit limitations, as well as strengths — means you’re available for new challenges. You’ve conquered your fear of making new, and inevitable, mistakes.  

Too much reliance on the past will stifle your courage to “fail upward” and use missteps as learning opportunities for growth.


2. Develop and use your support network: When you pride yourself on being an independent self-starter, it’s difficult to ask for help. You tell yourself you don’t want to bother people unnecessarily.

You may fear feedback because you don’t want to hear your work isn’t up to par. You may even choose to consult a colleague who’s going to tell you what you want to hear.
If so, you’re hurting your chances of stretching and growing. 

Instead, challenge yourself to ask respected individuals for regular feedback, even if it’s painful at first.

Having a structured feedback plan makes it easier. Find a mentor who’s familiar with your work, and tell him you’d like to run something by him. Ask these three questions: 

  1. What should I stop doing?
  2. What should I continue doing?
  3. What should I start doing?

3. Become approachable in a high-achiever way: Learn to ask questions. Doing so doesn’t imply you’re ignorant, as long as you phrase them correctly. Let people know you’re trying to explore different perspectives and that you’d like to learn their opinions or thoughts.

Share small mistakes with others. When you practice acknowledging uncertainty or confessing to mistakes, you’re showing your human side. This makes you more approachable and trustworthy.

When you open up to others, you send a powerful message. Others will reciprocate with their own stories, and they’ll be more willing to help you out. 

Tomorrow: the nex three steps

High Achiever? Break out of the traps. (part 2)

(Part 2)

Breaking Out of Traps

First, take a hard look at yourself. Identify any of the eight traps into which you’ve fallen.  Descriped in Part One of this series, they are:

  1. Driven to achieve results
  2. Doers
  3. Highly motivated
  4. Addicted to positive feedback
  5. Competitive
  6. Passionate about work
  7. Safe risk takers
  8. Guilt-ridden

Which traps escalate your anxieties and cause you to engage in unproductive behaviors?

Next, adopt new practices that give you the courage to step out of your comfort zone. This isn’t  easy, and it won’t happen overnight. Many leaders require help from a trusted peer, mentor or coach.

It’s a hard truth, but the talent and skills that got you “here” won’t take you “there.” Your best thinking may not be enough. As intelligent as you may be, you simply cannot know what you don’t know.

If you’re smart and ambitious, you likely have a coach or have experience with one at some point in your career. It’s time to review or renew your coaching relationship.

Tomorrow: Steps to freeing yourself.

High Achiever? Don’t fall into these traps. (part 1)

Many high performers would rather do the wrong things well than do the right thing poorly.”
~ Thomas J. DeLong and Sara DeLong, “The Paradox of Excellence,” Harvard Business Review, June 2011

Part 1: Introduction

Leaders are high achievers who continually grow as professionals. But in many organizations, there are high achievers who are floundering. They’re smart, ambitious professionals who aren’t as productive or satisfied as they could be. Many ascend to leadership positions and reach a plateau in their professional growth.

Throughout their careers, they’ve been told they’re high potentials. They should be flourishing, but they often let anxiety about their performance compromise their ability to learn and grow.

Fear of revealing their limitations may cause high achievers to undermine their careers and hamper their leadership abilities. Many know they can and should be doing better, but they fail to ask for help.

If you’re a high achiever, then you’re used to winning and accustomed to turning out remarkable performance. But what happens when you’re in over your head or on an accelerating  treadmill that’s going nowhere fast?

For example, when challenged by new technologies or strategic game changes, you’re probably unwilling to admit it and often refuse to ask for help. The very strengths that led you to the fast track can steer you toward poor performance.

High performers exhibit eight typical behaviors, write Thomas J. and Sara DeLong in “The Paradox of Excellence” (Harvard Business Review, June 2011):

  1. Driven to achieve results: Achievers don’t let anything get in the way of goal completion. But they can become so caught up in tasks that colleagues get pushed aside. Transparency or helping others feels like a waste of valuable time.
  2. Doers: Because nobody can do it as well or as quickly as they can, they drift into poor delegation or micromanagement.
  3. Highly motivated: Achievers take their work seriously, but they fail to see the difference between the urgent and the merely important—a potential path to burnout.
  4. Addicted to positive feedback: Achievers care how others perceive them and their work, but they tend to ignore positive feedback and obsess over criticism.
  5. Competitive: Achievers go overboard in their competitive drive; they obsessively compare themselves to others. This leads to a chronic sense of insufficiency, false calibrations and career missteps.
  6. Passionate about work: Achievers feed on the highs of successful work but are subject to crippling lows. They tend to devote more attention to what’s lacking (the negative), rather than what’s right (the positive).
  7. Safe risk takers: Because they are so passionate about success, they shy away from risk and the unknown. They won’t stray far from their comfort zone.
  8. Guilt-ridden: No matter how much they accomplish, achievers believe it’s never enough. They want more. When they do complete a milestone, they don’t take the time to savor the moment. They expect to be successful, so they deny themselves the chance to fully appreciate the joy of achievement.

You may recognize yourself as a high achiever. Or, perhaps you started out that way but have let yourself fade into the background. You play it safe, maybe even telling yourself that your average performance is above the norm — so why risk more?

When you’re used to having things come easily to you, it’s only natural to shy away from assignments that test you and require you to learn new skills.

When you have a successful self-image to protect, you find yourself avoiding risk. Instead, many high achievers like yourself hunker down and lock themselves into routines at the expense of professional growth.

It’s possible to break this cycle and get back on track for career success. In fact, it’s not only possible — it’s essential if you want to flourish in top leadership roles.

Tomorrow: Part 2 Breaking Out of Traps